TOMS RIVER – “The defendant’s acts were heinous. He preyed upon elderly, weak and infirm,” Judge Michael T. Collins said.
The judge went along with the plea agreement, sentencing Robert Novy to 10 years in state prison, with parole eligibility in a little more in three years. He can appeal the sentence.
Novy back in July admitted guilt to stealing millions from vulnerable elderly clients who entrusted him with their finances. In courtroom 16 in Ocean County on Friday, the public learned he stole and destroyed much more. And those family members feel that they bear the guilt.
They all wore yellow carnations to show solidarity.
“Why can my Mother at age 89 and myself not have closure, not mourn our family like most do, not be a part of a service? Mr. Novy insists I am not family. I like this definition of family: ‘what defines family is not solely blood relation. Family consists of the people who support and love you, and the people you can confide in and trust.’ Mr. Novy is not family. I never asked for what was in the Will, I never expected it. My Aunt borrowed a rare book from me and it would have been nice to have gotten that book back. It would have been nice to send her cousins some of the photographs they had taken,” Siobhan Hutchinson shared in a prepared statement she sent to Jersey Shore Online. She read from a shorter statement in court Friday. She was the lone family member of a victim who spoke before the court. “There was no closure, only bag of guilt for seven years that I could not do more for them.”
From the age of 8, Hutchinson was raised by Lucas Ksayian, her mother’s husband, who was a father to her in every way but biologically she said. His brother and wife, Uncle Haig and Aunt Sunny, were actively involved in their lives. Although Hutchinson admitted their family hardly resembled that shown on The Donna Reed Show, and that Haig and Sunny were not the warm, loving types.
“The greatest gift they gave me was to be mentioned in their Will. It was not the money, it was a clear acknowledgment that they saw me, they considered me family,” Hutchinson said. “It was $10 thousand dollars and, if they had given me less, I still would be grateful.”
Sunny and Haig lived private, modest lives. When Hutchinson was working to get their affairs in order, , she only then learned of their stock investments, her uncle’s two Alfa Romeos: they had a few million dollars.
Back in 2011 Sunny was sick and in and out of the hospital and rehab. Haig, who shared a home with his wife in Forked River, at age 92 still drove up and down the Parkway to visit her at Community Medical Center.
Several years earlier, a banker at their local Wells Fargo had suggested the couple employ the services of attorney Robert Novy to get their affairs in order. They did.
Hutchinson had also introduced her aunt and uncle to a geriatric care manager who had helped her parents with their move to Florida. The manager did meet with the couple and Hutchinson to get their affairs in order, and did request a meeting with Novy. Hutchinson said they never heard back from the attorney.
That July, the manager set up a cleaning service for Haig and Sunny’s home, as well as a home health company for in-house support. However, before the month was out, Haig changed his mind, that he didn’t want any help in his home, Hutchinson said. He dismissed the care manager as well.
“I realized my uncle was still able to make his own choices, he understood the situation, and probably had a mixture of old-world stubbornness and fear of the loss of control. I withdrew and decided to let things cool down,” Hutchinson said. “Perhaps, I let too much time pass.”
She attempted to speak with her uncle in October at his home. Not getting in touch with him, she called the last known rehabilitation center her aunt was aunt, and curtly told no information could be given and to contact their attorney. Robert Novy.
They finally spoke on Nov. 14. Her aunt, she was told, was in poor health.
Her uncle was dead. He died two days earlier.
Novy told her that Haig had said she was not family, and did not wish to see her. Did her aunt knew her husband was dead? No. Can I accompany you to tell her? No.
Hutchinson knew her aunt and uncle had a home in Waretown. She drove there and knocked on the door, and had a health aide slam the door in her face, before opening it again and throwing a cell phone at her. On the line was a woman from Novy’s office, yelling at Hutchinson that she was trespassing and that the Ocean Township Police were being called. She said Novy told her he was going to have her banned from entering the 55+ gated adult community.
The care manager, in the meantime, reportedly received an angry letter from Novy’s office, accusing her and Hutchinson of “ransacking” Haig and Sunny’s home, and abandoning them.
Hutchinson’s father died shortly thereafter, and she brought her mother back to New Jersey to live with her. Family could not get in touch with Sunny at all.
Sunny died two years later.
“…And as far as I know she died alone, with probably only a home health aide by her side or perhaps at a hospital. I don’t know. I did not know until just recently where they are interred. There was no service for either one of them that I know of,” Hutchinson said. “What kind of society are we that something like this could happen and does happen frequently?”
Novy, 66, of Brick, was a prominent Ocean County attorney who hosted his own radio show geared toward helping seniors. He taught seminars on elder law.
He stole millions of dollars from those the public and clients thought he was helping.
The victims that state is aware of mostly had no close family, and in some cases, were in poor health, like suffering from dementia.
He had an ethics complaint slapped against him in January 2016 after being investigated by the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics. He was arrested that October after an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, assisted by the New Jersey Division of Taxation Office of Criminal Investigation.
The State found that Novy, in some cases, would simply transfer clients’ money into his own bank account. Other times, he transferred that money and liquidated assets into Interest on Lawyer Trust Account subaccounts he controlled. Other times, he transferred money from those accounts into his firm’s operating and disbursement accounts.
He operated a legal firm in Manchester.
“The investigation revealed that Novy stole funds from elderly and deceased clients who often did not have a close relative to claim their estate or challenge Novy’s actions. He used the stolen funds for his own benefit, paying personal and business expenses. Novy gained control through wills, powers of attorney, and trust documents, making himself the sole financial decision-maker for the clients. When clients had sizeable assets in the form of an annuity or life insurance policy, Novy directed insurance companies to redeem the policies and send the money directly to him,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said back in July. “In some cases, when challenged by trustees or relatives about particular funds that had been withdrawn from client accounts, Novy claimed they were “administrative errors” and repaid the funds.”
“This crime was not due to an ‘accidental oversight,’ a typo, a miscalculation on the part of Mr. Novy,” Hutchinson said. “He specifically targeted wealthy seniors with little to no family, who could not protect themselves from his thievery and deceit.”
Novy pleaded guilty in July to first-degree money laundering, admitting he stole millions from his law clients. The state’s investigation found about $3 million stolen from at least two dozen victims.
He has to pay $4 million–$3 million for known victims and $1 million for anyone who may come forward in the next two years– in restitution to the victims, surrender his law license an pay $500,000 to the state for its anti-money laundering profiteering penalty. Novy’s attorneys said they feel it excessive but have no complaint, and those obligations have been paid in full.
The state in July said it would seek a 10-year prison term for Novy, including a three-year, four-month parole ineligibility.
“Your point on victimizing the elderly was not lost on me,” Judge MIchael T. Collins told the room after Hutchinson had spoken.
“I have known Bob Novy for 20 years…I have known him to be nothing but ethical, moral,” Charles Bowman, a financial planner who worked with Novy. He worked on the county’s fee arbitration committee, and never once saw Novy’s name come up.
In addition to Bowman speaking, Collins had received written statements from family, friends and doctors on behalf of Novy. His attorneys asked that the court also think of the impact on Novy: he lost his law practice, his livelihood, and the time lost during this sentence. He’ll be in his 70s when he’s out, and unlikely to be able to start afresh.
“He has lost his name and good standing in this community,” his attorneys said. ‘It’s gone, as a result of this criminal case.” In fact, his attorneys painted him as a champion of senior care–their homes were maintained or upgraded. No one was evicted from their home. They had medical care. All of this in cases where families couldn’t–or wouldn’t–step in.
Novy spoke briefly to the court. He said he stood before the court a broken man. He did admit to overcharging clients. But he refuted that he prevented anyone from seeing any of his clients. Families would try to interfere with services signed for by his clients, he protected his clients from that interference, he said.
“I’ve attempted to serve the community for 42 years. I served in New Jersey for many years before that. I say with all sincerity, honor, I did not intend to harm anyone,” Novy said. He apologized to his colleagues and friends and families, and especially to his wife Cathy.
“You don’t need to apologize to me Bob,” his wife said from the front row in the audience.
“I wanted to find a reason. I think I was hoping for a substance abuse problem, an issue of alcoholism or drug addiction, and to place the blame on that. Then I hoped to find something like an addiction to gambling. But I couldn’t find anything in report,’ Collins said. “…What occurred to me was, it was nothing other than greed. Naked and unadulterated greed.”
“My Aunt was denied family and friend comfort in her last years and visitation from people she was close to. My mother and I were denied the knowledge of whether she was okay. I never got to help them settle in their transition and anyone who has gone through this with family, understands how difficult it is for seniors to face change, to move to an unfamiliar setting with people they don’t know. We never got to say good-bye to either of them. We don’t have closure, only questions with no answers,” Hutchinson said.
“I love you Bob. The truth will come out eventually,” Cathy Novy said.